Transforming public procurement: The UK Green Paper

By Tilly Kenyon
The publication of the government’s green paper, which set out the post-Brexit future for public procurement, was a historic moment...

UK public spending soared during 2020 as the government dealt with the pandemic and prepared for a post-brexit UK. The proposals in the ‘Transforming public procurement’ Green Paper are intended to shape the future of public procurement in this country for many years to come.

Brexit means the UK no longer has to follow EU rules on procurement and the Government’s Green Paper looks at what replaces the EU procurement rules.

According to the paper the UK spends some £290 billion on public procurement every year. This huge amount of government spending must be leveraged to play its part in the UK’s economic recovery, opening up public contracts to more small businesses and social enterprises to innovate in public service delivery, and meeting our net-zero carbon target by 2050, explains Lord Agnew. 

The Government’s goal, as set out in the paper, is to speed up and simplify our procurement processes, place value for money at their heart, and unleash opportunities for small businesses, charities and social enterprises to innovate in public service delivery. The current regimes for awarding public contracts are ‘too restrictive with too much red tape for buyers and suppliers alike, which results in attention being focused on the wrong activities rather than value and transparency’. The government wants a progressive, modern regime which can adapt to the fast moving environment in which business operates. 

The papers mixed reviews

The publishing of this paper has brought about many different views and critiques on what the government has set out. 

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation who want data to work for everyone. When asked in a response to the paper, about whether they agree with the proposed legal principles of public procurement they said:

“We strongly agree with the proposed legal principles of: public good, value for money, transparency, integrity, fair treatment of suppliers, and non-discrimination. These correspond closely with the principles of the ODI as expressed in our vision and manifesto. These principles are essential for a trustworthy procurement system, which we believe can be supported by an open, trustworthy data ecosystem.”

Others have argued that there needs to be clear and practical routes set out, and project techniques should be applied. 

Adam Maddison, Director of client services at dxw, said: “The Government needs to go further and commit to simplifying procurement for smaller players to help them have a real impact. Doing this would also make life easier for buyers for whom procurement is, more often than not, off-putting and time-consuming.” 

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government and they work with councils to support, promote and improve local government. They stated: "It would be difficult in general terms to disagree with the legal principles of public procurement outlined in the Green Paper, however we do have some concerns."

These proposals set out by the UK government are historic for the country and if implemented, represent a considerable shift in public procurement in the UK. 


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